The Sniper

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The story ends ironically when the IRA sniper realizes that the enemy he killed was his own brother. But there are larger ironies here: first, that all of the sniper’s Free State enemies are, in a sense, his brothers, for they had been comrades in arms fighting for the same cause; second, that all men are brothers as descendants of Adam and Eve. When they fight, they become Cain and Abel. No doubt, the IRA sniper now wonders about the identities of the turret gunner, the old woman, and the person manning the machine gun.

War. Death. Pain. Anger and remorse. None are pleasantries, but all are faced and handled every day. In Liam O'Flaherty's "The Sniper," all of these things are brought to an acute reality. To aid in his creation of such emotional conflict, O'Flaherty portrayed the sniper as a very controversial character. We can see this contrast in personality by looking at appearance, actions, and thoughts. "...the face of a student, thin and ascetic,...eyes had the cold gleam of the fanatic." And so the sniper is described in a physical sense. Upon looking at the meaning of the words, we find an unexpected conflict of definition. O'Flaherty writes that the sniper's face is "that of a student." We think young, and vibrant. However, to describe his meaning, he goes on to say that his face is both "thin and ascetic." Also, gaunt, and displaying self-discipline; both qualities carried more so in adults than students. Also, it is stated that the sniper had "the eyes of a man who is used to looking at death." One might imagine an older man, who has lived through many-a-war and seen lives lost. These three descriptions show that the sniper was older than his years in appearance, as well as emotionally. The snipers' actions also are cause to believe that he is more than meets the eye. In the story, the...
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